2013 Schoolboy Cricketer : Mendis’ marathon Test innings of 194 | Sunday Observer

2013 Schoolboy Cricketer : Mendis’ marathon Test innings of 194

The number three batting position is a vital link to any cricket team. When it comes to a national team, it is even more important as it could eventually carry the hope of a nation.

In the 1990s, it was 1985 Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Asanka Gurusinha who shouldered this great responsibility and provided that much needed stability and reliability to the Sri Lanka team.

With Gurusinha returning to the country from the Down Under after two decades to serve as Cricket Manager of the Sri Lanka team, we see another Observer-Mobitel Cricketer of the Year award winner emerging to serve in that pivotal one down slot in the Lankan batting order.

He is none other than former Cambrian cricketer Kusal Mendis, the winner of the prestigious Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title winner in 2013.

It was just four years ago that Mendis stamped his mark as an emerging star from Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa. The greatest moment in his school career was the day he was awarded the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title in 2013.

Since then, he has proved his credentials to fit into that vital No.3 position which fell vacant after the retirement of veteran Kumar Sangakkara. Mendis may have a long way to go to emulate the feats of Sangakkara. But during the short period he has been with the Sri Lanka team, he has already proved that he is capable of following the footsteps of former greats such as Gurusinha and Sangakkara who had served in that position with distinction.

The biggest moment in Mendis’ short but impressive Test career so far was witnessed last week when he had a marathon knock of 194 in the first Test against Bangladesh concluded in Galle yesterday.

He missed what would have been a dream double century by unsuccessfully attempting to signal it with a six. His superb knock, which included four sixers and 19 boundaries, provided the backbone of the Lankan first innings.

Occupying the crease for more than seven hours and facing 285 balls, Mendis showed qualities of a mature Test batsman, although he was playing only in his 15th Test. Thus, he became only the third Sri Lankan to aggregate over 1,000 Test runs before completing 23 years of age, behind Arjuna Ranatunga and Mahela Jayawardene. In 2013, he became only the second Cambrian to win the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year the award after Sahan Wijeratne was judged as the winner in 2002. From his early days as a Cambrian cricket star, many identified him to be future Sri Lanka material.

Winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title is widely regarded as n unofficial passage the national team and Mendis is another cricketer who had proved that this common belief among schoolboy cricketers is right. Exactly two years after winning the dream title, Mendis made his Test debut for Sri Lanka in the second Test against the West Indies at the Premadasa Stadium in October, 2015.

Speaking after his title glory in 2013, Mendis said his initial aim was to represent the Sri Lanka Under 19 team in the following year’s Under 19 World Cup in the UAE. Even at that stage, Mendis said the “Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of The Year Award is a launching pad” for his future cricket career. In less than four years after winning the title, Mendis has proved this right beyond reasonable doubt.

Speaking further after holding aloft that glittering trophy, Mendis, paid a generous tribute to the organisers of the show the Sunday Observer and Mobitel and said that the contest was a tower of strength for the cricketers.

“There are several past winners who had gone to represent the country. That shows how valuable the contest is for the budding cricketers. The contest has been boosted further with the introduction the third segment which will undoubtedly help the outstation cricketer enormously.

The talented players outside Colombo could be identified better and that augurs well for a better tomorrow. Besides the main awards, there are many other segments in the competition that has been won. These sections too, help the youngsters in their future cricket career,” he was quoted as saying.

Mendis, who turned 22 last month, has so far aggregated 1,065 runs in 15 Tests with two centuries and three fifties averaging 35.50. His previous century too has been a big one – 176. In 22 ODIs for Sri Lanka todate, Mendis has aggregated 685 runs with eight half centuries to average 34.25.

We should see more from young Mendis’ willow in the years to come and his mega innings of 176 in Pallekele and 194 in Galle is just harbingers of what yet another Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer is capable of dishing out.